25 Oct 2010

Review: "The 19th Wife" - Tales of the 19th Wives

I read "The 19th Wife" - or at least most of it - while on a flight from Iceland to the USA. Long flight = lots of time to read. And luckily the book was really good, enough to keep me occupied for most of the flight. It is a really good book, David Ebershoff really knows how to tell a story.

I have borrowed a summary of the plot from the author's web site http://www.ebershoff.com/ :

"It is 1875, and Ann Eliza Young has recently separated from her powerful husband, Brigham Young, prophet and leader of the Mormon Church. Expelled and an outcast, Ann Eliza embarks on a crusade to end polygamy in the United States. A rich account of a family’s polygamous history is revealed, including how a young woman became a plural wife.

Soon after Ann Eliza’s story begins, a second exquisite narrative unfolds–a tale of murder involving a polygamist family in present-day Utah. Jordan Scott, a young man who was thrown out of his fundamentalist sect years earlier, must reenter the world that cast him aside in order to discover the truth behind his father’s death.

And as Ann Eliza’s narrative intertwines with that of Jordan’s search, readers are pulled deeper into the mysteries of love and faith."

So what we have here is basically a blend of historical fiction about the mormon church and a murder mystery. The historical part is narrated by Ann Eliza Young, a real-life figure, the mystery part is narracted by contruction worker Jordan Scott whose past lies in a church which has broken off from the Mormon church and continued a very oldfashioned religious doctrine. Both parts of the plot had plenty of suspense to keep me reading, it was such a good book. The 19th wife are two persons - Ann Eliza Young is the 19th wife Brigham Young and Jordan's mother is the 19th wife in her household.

Jordan had me fascinated. he was expelled from his church, his family, his life, as a teenager for holding his stepsister's hand and since then he has had to fight his way through life. He is a tough bloke with a soft side and at times I really felt protective of him. However, when his mother is arrested for murder, he heads back to face his past and try to clear his mother's name.

I knew very little about the Mormon church and I did feel like I learnt something about the story of the church. It was really interesting. How the polygamous marriages work are difficult for me to understand but it is fascinating to read about. And to make it even better, the book is well-written, has a great language and really manages to make the characters come to life.


  1. I read this book earler this year (perhaps late last year) and as I can't remember too much about it I don't think I must have found it that interesting. I do however seem to remember commenting that it jumped around quite a lot and was confusing in places. I must re-read my review or I'm going to spend all night wondering.

    Anyway, thanks for sharing your views, I'm glad you enjoyed the book.

  2. I imagine it could be a bit confusing if you don't read it more or less in one go because it does indeed jump about a bit :-)